MORE SOOTHING than Robitussin, more efficacious than Contac, mother's chicken soup also tastes better than any modern "cure" for the commom cold. Besides, it's free of dangerous side effects, offering, instead, tender loving care, not to mention nutrition.
As if all of those pulses aren't enough, you could almost say that chicken soup has the doctor's seal of approval, if not for curing a cold, at least for relieving the symptoms. Should someone ever figure out how to bottle mother's chicken soup, the manufacturer could take advantage of several excellent testimonials to the product's curative powers.
When the Food and Drug Administration announced the results of its review of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies five years ago, the chairman of the review panel gave chicken soup his blessing. Dr. Francis C. Lowell, a Harvard Univesity allergy specialist, said he tells his patients not to bother with cold remedies. "You may if you want to," he said, "but you don't need to. You'd be better off in the pocketbook" without them. And then Lowell answered a reporter's question about the value of "bedrest, chicken soup and plenty of liquids": "They are as good as anything," said Dr. Lowell.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Jerre Goyan, fighting a cold himself last week, said he was going to take his own advice. "I have said on several occasions that people would be a lot better off with chicken soup then penicillin."
And that probably explains how chicken soup got to be called"Jewish penicillin." Non-Jews make chicken broth and chicken stock, chicken consomme and chicken bouillon, but Jewish mothers make chicken soup. Generations of Jewish children have suffered through roast chickens that werre first boiled to make the soup and then roasted. Tough? Dry? Ask them.
"I didn't know roast chicken was juicy and tender until I grew up and cooked one the way it said in the cookbook," one over-40 woman explained.
But while they suffered through roast chicken, those little children got chicken soup, especially when they were sick. Sometimes, if they were very good, they would get one of those bright yellow unhatched chicken eggs, found inside a chicken, in their chicken soup.
There's a perfectly adequate scientific explanation for why chicken soup makes you feel better if you have a cold.Joe Graedon, pharmacologist and author of "The People's Pharmacy II," discusses it in his book. The information comes from three doctors at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla:
"We decided to assess whether chicken soup might have a theraputic rationale other than its good taste. We measured nasal mucus velocity, since transport of nasal secretions serves as a first line of host defense in removal of pathogens [nasties like viruses.] It was not possible to design a double blind study because the placebo could be distinguished by taste from chicken soup, but we did randomize the various treatments.
"Drinking hot chicken soup either by sipping or by straw increased nasal mucus velocity compared to the sham procedure . . . An increase of nasal mucus velocity should be beneficial in acute rhinitis [stuffy nose] since the contact time of a pathogen on the nasal mucosa would be shortened, thereby minimizing its penetration and multiplication . . . Finally, the delayed suppression of nasal mucus velocity 30 minutes after drinking cold water suggests that hot rather than cold liquids might be preferable in the recommendations for fluid intake in patients with upper respiratory tract infections [colds.]"
What Graedon didn't quote from the survey is that volunteers who drank hot water also showed an increase in velocity, but not nearly as great as that experienced by the chicken soup imbibers. Commenting on this phenomenon, the authors of "Consuming Passions -- an Anthropolgy of Eating," say the difference is probably because of the soup's aroma.
Greadon says he hopes no one tries to isolate the "aromatic compound' that produces this terapeutic effect."
Not all chicken soup works the same way.Mother's is usually the preferred form, but there are some children who would just as soon have grandmother's.
Not all chicken soup is made the same way, either. The kind you get in a can, through which it would seem one chicken has simply marched on his way to dip a foot into 20,000 other cans on the assembly line, does not qualify. Maybe the monosodium glutamate, added to make the soup taste as if there were more chicken in the product than exists, is counterproductive. Maybe it's because the hands that prepared it are made of steel instead of flesh.
Bouillon cubes fall into the same category.
The kind of chicken soup that has been strained and clarified to give it a pristine clarity, the kind called chicken consomme, though excellent for black-tie dinners, appears to lose the "aromatic compound" that provides relief.
What works in one family, does not necessarily work in another. If your mother always made chicken soup with chicken feet and you can't get them, that might explain why your chicken soup isn't effective. The same would hold true if she made chicken soup with backs and you insist on using a whole chicken.
If your mother made chicken soup with dill or parsnips, I, for one, would not eat it. My mother's chicken soup is THE BEST. Of course. It's my mother's.
And my mother's chichen soup recipe has only seven ingredients, counting the water, salt and pepper. She flavored the chicken with onion, celery, carrot and chicken.
Here's how she made it, along with several other versions: MY MOTHER'S CHICKEN SOUP 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut up 3 1/2 cups of water 2 to 3 carrots 3 ribs celery 1 sliced onion Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cover. Cook 45 to 60 minutes, depending on age (size) of bird. Strain stock if you wish it be fat free. Refrigerate until fat congeals and remove layer from top. NEW JERSEY CHICKEN SOUP 1 pound beef and some beef bones 2 quarts water 1 large onion 3 1/2 pounds chicken Ginger Salt 1 inch slice parsely root, parsnip and turnip 1 carrot 2 stalks celery or piece celery root 2 peppercorns 1 clove Small piece bay leaf
Begin cooking the beef and bones in water and onion while preparing chicken. Skim soup as soon as it boils. Dust chicken pieces lightly with some giner and salt and add to kettle. Add vegetables and seasonings. Simmer until meat is tender.
Unless an absolutely clear soup is desired, the flavor of the soup is very much improved by strining the juices of the onion, the celery and the carrot back into the soup. Cool quickly and refrigerate. Just before serving remove solidified fat from top.
The Molly Goldberg Cookbook was written by Gertrude Berg and Myra Waldo. Gertrude Berg, though an accomplished writer and actress, didn't. know a thing about cooking. In the '50's, on live television, she set fire to the set of the Roy Neal cooking show while making blintzes. As the fire was being extinguished, Berg told Neal in her Molly Goldberg accent, "Vell, you know sometimes these things happen in the kitchen. MOLLY GOLDBERG'S CHICKEN SOUP Chicken feet and giblets 6 pounds of chiken 2 1/2 quarts water 1 onion 3 stalks celery 8 sprigs parsley 2 carrots 2 leeks 1 parsley root or celery root, scraped Salt Scrape chicken feet. Combine chicken, chicken feet, giblets, water and onion in saucepan and bring to a boil. Skim top. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours longer or until chicken is tender*. Strain soup and serve.
*In the old days it would have taken 2 1/2 hours to cook a mature chicken. Today the chicken is tender in 45 minutes. REVISIONIST CHICKEN SOUP 4 1/2 pounds chicken, cut in pieces 3 quarts cold water 1 large leek, sliced 1/2 cup diced white turnips 2 large white onions, quartered 1 small bunch green onions 1 bay leaf 1/4 teaspoon thyme 1/8 teaspoon cloves 1/8 teaspoon powdered mace Salt 1 teaspoon coarsely ground peppercorns
Put the chicken in a pot with 3 quarts of cold water; cover and bring to a boil. Skim off foam and continue skimming unitl as much as possible has been removed. This is necessary for a lovely, clear broth. To the chicken and water add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken from broth and strain. Pour into a bowl and chill thoroughly. Remove the fat and save.